And we got to spend some time with my incredible grandparents. My Grandpa had open-heart surgery the Monday before Thanksgiving, and I was so grateful that we got to see him so soon after. He was already cracking jokes by Wednesday. What a miracle the human body is... and his courage is!
We had a marvelous time, and coming back to Phoenix didn't evoke even one tear - mostly because we'll be going right back come Christmas Eve! ;)
Since we've gotten back, I've also been a bit un-blog-available because...well, we went a little Christmas crazy here in the Baer apartment. "Christmas crazy" being a misnomer, however. Might I add.
We bought a big fat jolly new tree, premium Coldstone brand hot chocolate (did you know there was such a thing?! It is to die for) and a million and one candles. We trimmed the tree, completely replaced our mantle knick-knacks with only Christmas-related decor and surrounded our bedroom window with sparkly bulbs. We've already watched both versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr. Seuss-ian and Jim Carrey-ian.) And Aaron would have turned on The Santa Clause tonight if he could have gotten away with it. (I think I'm too tired to sit through a movie right now but if I weren't I just might have given the go ahead!) 'Tis the season! (OOH - I also bought Dave Barnes' Christmas album...YOU MUST GET IT NOW!)
Christmas craziness aside, I wanted to share some thoughts for a moment on a beautiful book I’ve been reading. It’s called “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen, and my reaction to it has been kind of curious. It was recommended to me by a dear friend who knows me quite well, and she promised it would change me. I read the forward and the first few pages thereafter and started feeling a bit uneasy – it was boring me, if I can be honest with you. It wasn’t stirring me at all and I was worried I’d have to report back to my friend that I didn’t feel what she pictured I would.
But I’ve kept reading since then, and though I have a few passages underlined and a few pages dog-eared, there isn’t one single page or word in the book that stands out to me in particular… yet it has already changed me in a way that is going to stick. Do you know that feeling? It is such a real feeling to me… it would be like waking up one day and learning you were color-blind. (This happened to Aaron a few years ago. He was quite perplexed. He inexplicably became even more so when I couldn’t stop giggling about it…) But can you imagine yourself going through that discovery? You would have to apply it to all of your memories of things you had seen before, and you’d know you would have it in mind for the rest of your life as you took in your sights.
That’s how this feels after having read this book. There is no going back. I will know what it taught me forever. Isn’t that lovely? It’s like my heart walls have changed.
I just want to share one passage that I read tonight, because it is tearing me up in such a wonderful way. I think it reminded me too of all that I’ve been learning about mercy.
Nouwen is talking about the parable of the vineyard – where the landowner hires workers each hour throughout the day, then pays each of them the same wage at the end. Naturally the workers who had been there all day aren’t too pleased. They “grumbled.” (I would too. I may even have had a 'Blockbuster' moment, as my friend Taylor calls them. More on that later). And the landowner (God) said “Are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15). Nouwen says that for a while he used to wonder why, in the story, the landowner decides to pay the workers who had been there the shortest amount of time first, in front of all the others. Why wouldn’t he foresee the conflict and just pay the longer workers first, hoping that they would be on their way and miss the payment of the later workers? But then he learns:
“It hadn’t occurred to me previously that the landowner might have wanted the workers of the early hours to rejoice in his generosity to the latecomers. It never crossed my mind that he might have acted on the supposition that those who had worked in the vineyard the whole day would be deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to do work for their boss, and even more grateful to see what a generous man he is. It requires an interior about-face to accept such a non-comparing way of thinking. But that is God’s way of thinking. God looks at His people as children of a family who are happy that those who have done only a little bit are as much loved as those who accomplish much.”
I don’t know that there is any ‘commentary’ I could add… I just wanted to share that passage so that maybe you could be as bewildered and awed by the kind of God we have as I was. Can you imagine if we acted like the children He envisions us as... He must feel so perplexed by our self-involved cages. That passage makes me think of what C.S. Lewis says about pride as well – that it is pure comparison. The later workers couldn’t see the beauty of the landowner’s gesture because their comparison was blinding them. How much we must miss!
Hope that beats up your heart as much as it did mine. In a great way. :)
Until next time, Happy December, friends! Both Aaron Michael and I celebrate our 24th birthdays next week, and apparently he is planning an adventurous day for us in the city…I will try to include some pictures!
[P.S. If you are an online Christmas shopper, PLEASE go to www.hughhewitt.com. Check out the banner at the top of the page that says "Good2Give." If you click through that banner to do all your normal Christmas shopping, a portion of your purchases will go to help sponsor hungry children. How can you say no to that!]